28 Jun 2024

Our Products & Their History

Passenger Lift:

The earliest lifts were called hoists; they were powered by human and animal power, or sometimes water-driven mechanisms. They were in use as early as the 3rd century BC, and the ancient Greeks are known to have created the first elevators by using pulleys and winches. Modern lifts were developed during the 1800s; these lifts evolved from steam to hydraulic power. As technology developed, electricity became the main source of power, and the first electric lift was built in 1880.


One of the earliest uses of escalators was during the construction of the great pyramids of Giza in ancient Egypt. A rudimentary track consisting of tree trunks was used to transfer stone cubes to construction sites. The closest thing to modern escalators as we know them was an amusement ride, rather than a device with a practical purpose. The first ‘inclined lift’ was created and built in 1895. This invention was a steam-powered moving staircase and was showcased in 1892 at Coney Island, New York, as an amusement ride that carried people up a short rise to the Islands Iron Pier. The escalator modified architecture itself, creating fluid transitions into spaces above and below. 

Dock Leveller:

In the late 1930s, George Richmond invented and patented two products that would change shipping forever: the two-faced pallet and the hydraulic hand pallet lift truck which is known today as the forklift. Once the world had the technology to quickly move products around, there needed to be something additional to make it simple to move them in and out of trucks. In 1953, Gary Kelley invented the first counterbalanced dock leveller. It was a hinged steel ramp with a lip that greatly improved the connection between the warehouse loading dock and, the truck flatbed by reducing the amount of effort it took to make it level. By the 1970s, the loading dock looked very similar to how it looks today, but how dock levellers are activated and used is quite different now.

Industrial Doors:

The origins of the automatic door stretch back some 2000 years to the start of the Common Era, and historians have identified a mathematician and engineer called Heron of Alexandria, who lived in Ancient Greece, as the inventor of the world’s first automatic door. Heron designed automatic temple doors using pulley systems and rope, with fire used to heat water to direct it to weigh down on the pulley system, opening the doors. In the 17th Century, an automatic door was designed in China which used a foot sensor, but it wasn’t until 1931 that the very first optical device to open an automatic door was invented!

Stair Lift:

The earliest recorded stair lift was invented for King Henry VIII of England in the mid-1500s. After being injured in a jousting incident, he commissioned a “chairthrone” to go up and down the 20 feet of steps at his palatial London home. It is believed to have used a block-and-tackle system from one of his warships and was operated by a staff of servants. In 1923, the precursor to the modern stair lift was invented by C.C. Crispen after a friend of his who was immobilised due to polio. Crispen a self-taught engineer, created a seat capable of travelling up and down stairs. It was a basic chair connected to a rail that went the length of the staircase. It ran on small wheels or rollers and was moved by a chain or a cable. Crispen built his first prototype and named it “the Inclinator.”.


For over 170 years, we've been your trusted partner for maintenance, repair, installation and servicing on lifts, escalators, loading systems and mobility. Get in touch with Pickerings today!

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